As some of you may know, this is going to be a short four—or five, if I make an epilogue—chapter long story based off a prompt I received about a week ago on Tumblr set around Chapter 634, so if you haven't read it, you should! If you want to read the original prompt you can, but this first chapter is a re-vamped and elongated version of that said prompt so it won't really be necessary. Anyway, I absolutely fell in love with it, and immediately after I wrote it I was suddenly struck with inspiration. And so, here we are.

Also on a side note, for those of you who are also reading "Different," there probably won't be an update this week because I want to focus on this short story first before things get even crazier with the manga (omg). But don't worry; I'm in the middle of drafting Chapter 20, I'm just not happy with it yet, so yeah.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.

Chapter 1

As she walked down the quiet corridors of the hospital Sakura stifled a yawn while balancing Sasuke's breakfast tray with her other hand. She was early; he wouldn't be up yet. He wouldn't even know she ever came, in, out, and gone like the gentle breeze of summer. But she planned it that way. Sakura couldn't help herself, constantly checking on him in the early hours of the morning for her own accord, a pleasant reminder that it wasn't a dream.

After all these years of patiently waiting and hoping, Sasuke was finally back in the village. Though the journey to this point was by no means easy, Sakura was glad. No, she was more than that. She was ecstatic. But things were different. She wasn't the same person she was when she was twelve anymore; hell, she wasn't the same person she was just a year ago. And neither was Sasuke; she was sure of it. The war had changed them—all of them—but Sakura hoped it was for the better.

They've had their share of pain and suffering, separated by time and circumstance, perpetuated by secrets and lies. And yet, one thing remained constant throughout the years: Sakura still loved him. She even told him so, and while she wished it didn't have to be said on the battlefield, during a battle, during a war, she had no regrets. Sasuke deserved to know. And though he never gave her a proper a response, Sasuke had returned to the village, and that was enough for her. They were given a second chance, and maybe, just maybe, they could get things right this time.

Once Sakura reached Sasuke's room, she let out one last yawn before she quietly entered and set his tray on the bedside table, taking a quick peek at his chart and the machine that measured the steady beating of his heart. She smiled. After a month in the hospital, Sasuke was almost fully recovered, which was quite remarkable for someone who suffered some of the worst injuries. However, because of his own tendency to heal quickly, Naruto had already been discharged from the hospital a little over a week ago, something he never failed to mention whenever they came to visit him, much to Sasuke's chagrin.

However, it wouldn't be too long until Sasuke would be back on his feet. He'd have his trial—something Sakura tried to think of as little as possible—and then, well, she couldn't be too sure. Even if everything went well, there was still the whole rivalry between Naruto and Sasuke for the Hokage position, still a rather sensitive topic between the two, even though it was still too premature. Tsunade was still alive, and it wasn't as if they were the only two ninja eyeing for the position.

She sighed, placing Sasuke's clipboard back where she found it; now wasn't the time to be thinking of such things. And normally, Sakura would have left immediately after checking on his file, content with the mere sight of Sasuke sleeping peacefully, ignorant of her daily morning visits. But that morning, as she looked down at him, as she watched the slow rise and fall of his chest, Sakura realized the few minutes she allowed herself to gaze at him weren't enough. Her mind was restless, fully aware that soon, Sasuke would be out of the hospital and this luxury that she had given herself every morning would be gone. She wanted to stay—just a little bit longer, just a few more seconds, just for today—and then, that would be enough.

Without realizing it, she began to stroke Sasuke's hair, an intimate gesture, wondering what he dreamt about, wondering if he was finally able to sleep in peace. She remembered what it was like when she first began this morning routine of hers—his face contorted in pain, his breathing labored. Nightmares. How much had changed since then. But Sasuke was healing—slowly, but surely. They all were. Sakura sighed again, her hand sliding down to cup his face. Just for that moment, even if it was selfish of her, Sakura allowed herself to pretend, pretend he reciprocated her feelings, pretend they were lovers, pretend he'd open his eyes, look at her and say—

"Sakura. We didn't expect you to be here."

Snatching her hand away from Sasuke, Sakura whipped around, suddenly finding herself face to face with the village elders, Homura Mitokado and Koharu Utatane. She gasped; she didn't even hear them enter. Clicking her heels together, Sakura straightened, fighting the blush she was sure was on her face. Out of habit, she opened her mouth to greet them; however, she stopped herself before she could utter a word. Something was off. They seemed piqued, as if her presence was a nuisance to them. They weren't even looking at her, their attention focused on Sasuke who remained asleep. A knot formed in the pit of her stomach as she noticed the syringe in Mitokado's hand.

She swallowed. "What," Sakura said slowly, her eyes never leaving the syringe, instinctively repositioning herself to further block Sasuke from their view, "are you doing here?"

However, neither elder answered her question, ignoring her discourtesy, returning the favor. "Step aside, Sakura," Homura said evenly, edge in his voice, reminding her of his authority over her. He glanced at Sasuke's heart rate monitor, unamused. "This doesn't concern you."

But Sakura didn't care. "As a trained medic-nin, I cannot. I cannot let you move any further," she said, shaking her head, her voice strong despite the uneasiness she felt, "Not until you tell me what you're planning to do."

The elders exchanged glances, conflicted, wondering what to tell her. But after a few moments, Homura sighed, nodding his head to Koharu. "Very well, then," she said calmly, "We've come here to finish what Danzo started. We're putting an end to the Uchiha clan once and for all." She made a motion to the syringe in Homura's hand. "We just didn't expect anyone to be here this early." Koharu paused, grimacing. "You especially."

The way she said it made Sakura's blood run cold; her heart pound; her palms begin to sweat—so poised, so calculated. "But," Sakura said, talking suddenly becoming incredibly difficult, "but why?"

"Why?" Homura repeated indignantly, looking at her in disbelief, as if she was a child. "Why?" It was like he wanted to hit her. "Because he's dangerous, that's why!" he snapped, making Sakura jump as he took a threatening step forward.

However, Koharu held him back and gave him a pointed look, her eyes saying not nownot yet. Homura clicked his tongue, but stepped back, albeit grudgingly, glaring as Koharu turned back to Sakura. "You have to understand the position we're in, Sakura. The safety of Konoha is our number one priority," she said carefully, attempting to reason with her, "And despite his loss of temper, Mitokado is correct. Sasuke is dangerous. He's too dangerous to keep in the village, but we can't just let him leave. Imagine the repercussions, not only for us, but for the rest of the shinobi world." She paused. "I'm sure we all agree that we've suffered enough. And we're not about to start another conflict with the other nations because we didn't handle the Uchiha—properly."

"But," Sakura said softly, horrified at the implications, "this is murder."

"No," Koharu said, "this is justice."

Sakura froze. "You," she said, "you call this justice? What about his trial? What about Tsunade-sama? She couldn't have agreed—" The expression on Koharu's face made her stop. "She doesn't know, does she?" Neither elder said a word. "But Sasuke-kun joined the alliance! He fought to protect the village. He saved us. He—"

"He's unpredictable," Koharu interrupted, stone-faced, "We heard about that stunt he pulled on the battlefield, how he wanted to destroy all the bijuus, how he planned to destroy this shinobi system and create a new order. Sasuke may have fought on our side, but he is no better than Madara or Obito."

"I will agree," Sakura said stiffly, choosing her words carefully, "that Sasuke-kun went about it the wrong way, but he his intentions were good. And can you really blame him? After everything that's happened to him, to his family?" Sakura averted her gaze, remembering how Sasuke finally told her about the truth of the Uchiha massacre, something that had been hidden from her by her teammates, by the people she trusted. She took a deep breath to calm herself and looked back at the elders. "Have you learned nothing from this war? More killing isn't going to solve anything."

"It doesn't matter; we can't trust him."

Sakura glared. "You mean you can't control him."


Koharu pursed her lips, unable to deny the accusation, and looked at Homura. "I think," she said, nodding to Homura, giving him the okay, "this conversation is over. Now, move. This is not a suggestion. This is an order by the Konoha Council."

Sakura took a step back and stole a glance at Sasuke—still sleeping, still dreaming, still breathing—her thoughts drifting back to the moment when he came to her aid on the battlefield. Sasuke was many things. He was strong. He was stubborn. He was foolish. Sasuke was all of these things and more, but he was not the person the elders believed him to be. There was still good in him; she could feel it. Sakura clenched her fists. "Order or not," she said, returning her attention to the elders, determination in her voice, ready to accept any of the consequences, "I won't let you harm him."

"Sakura," Homura said sternly, his patience wearing thin, "Listen. We can forgive you for this—lapse in judgment, but if you don't step aside, we will not hesitate to use force." However, Sakura was unfazed by his threat and shook her head, prompting him to use a different approach. Homura relaxed. "Okay, fine," he said, his voice soft now, coaxing, "But think about the other patients in this hospital, Sakura. Think about the danger you'll be placing them in. Think about all the innocent lives that may be lost because you want to protect the Uchiha." He paused, letting his words sink in. "Now ask yourself: Is his life really that important to you? Is his life worth all of theirs?"

It went quiet, tension in the air, both the elders and Sakura in a mental standoff. However, while Sakura glared, Homura and Koharu merely crossed their arms, their expressions patronizing, waiting for her to give up. She huffed, biting the inside of her cheek, not sure what to do. But they were right, and they knew it. She couldn't risk having a physical confrontation with the elders, especially in the hospital. It was too risky. They were giving her a choice, when they knew she had none. And after a few moments, Sakura sighed, her shoulders slumping forward, head bowed as she took a step away from Sasuke.

Homura smiled, triumphant. "Good girl," he said, glancing at Koharu, "We knew you'd see it our way. Now you don't have to worry about any punishment, we can all forget this ever—"

However, before either Homura or Koharu could move any closer to his hospital bed, Sakura swung her arm and knocked Sasuke's breakfast tray off the bedside table, the jarring sounds of glass, metal, and plastic against the floor echoing throughout the room. The elders froze. Time seemed to stand still as Sakura watched the glass shatter and food splatter across the tiled floor, under the bed, and to the elders' feet. She looked up.

Red. The elders were seething—fury spilling from their eyes and radiating from their bodies—but Sakura didn't care. Holding her arms wide, Sakura moved back in front of the hospital bed and stood her ground, using her body as a barrier between the elders and Sasuke. She saw red, but she was red, too. "I thought I told you," she said, spitting out each word slowly and dangerously, "I will not let you harm him."

Homura's nostrils flared, his fist shaking, threatening to break the syringe he held in his hand. "How dare you," he said, "How dare you display such—such insolence, such—" He stopped, eyes widening in shock.


Relaxing ever so slightly, Sakura bowed her head and smiled, letting out a sigh of relief. It worked. Sasuke was awake. He sounded groggy, disoriented, but nevertheless awake. "Sasuke-kun," she said slowly, lifting her head and turning it so she was looking at him through the corner of her eye. She could feel the tears begin to form, but she would not allow herself to cry. Not yet. She still had to be strong. "I need you listen to me very carefully."

Sasuke sat up and rubbed his eyes, confused, shifting himself so he could see what Sakura was blocking. However, when he saw the elders it was as if his exhaustion had disappeared, suddenly alert. He took a deep breath and put the pieces together: from Sakura's stance, to the elders' expression of shock and anger, to the broken plates of his spilled tray. He shook his head, fully comprehending the situation. "Sakura, what—"

"No Sasuke-kun," she said, her voice steady, hiding her fear, hiding her pain, "don't speak, just listen." She gave him a smile.


And that's Chapter 1! Chapter 2 will be up soon (Almost done! Almost done!), but I reeeeeeaaaaaaaaaallllly need to work on my prompts for SSmonth and SSHC, so for those of you who are reading this for the second time, I apologize. Though, I hope the added detail and dialogue made up for it!

And as always, read and review!